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Summertime restaurant closings

St. Johnians need a vacation, too.  Living on a rock in the ocean has its own challenges. The simple fact is that everyone needs a break.

Many restaurant owners find mid-August and September to be good times to cut back hours, if only to try and lessen the odds of having their businesses affected by severe weather like tropical storms or worse.

Ruth Ernst, the owner of St. John Spice maintains a Web page which keeps track of who’s open and who’s closed, and when.  If you’re headed to the island, it’s a good idea to print this page out and them, as a last check, call before you go – just to make sure there hasn’t been a change in plans.

St. John restaurant closings schedule: www.stjohnspice.com/stjohnrestaurants.htm

Restaurants, pro and con

Some visitors have a love and hate reaction to island restaurants.

"Sometimes. I just refuse to cook on vacation," said ACB in a posting on a TripAdvisor forum.  Agreeing with another commenter, Bluewater that food and service is inconsistent (at island eateries), ACB said, "I’m willing to eat mediocre food in a beautiful location and, after a few drinks, it tastes sublime."

Bluewater does have some favorites.  "We love Uncle Joe’s BBQ and Skinny Legs and the Deli in Mongoose Junction.  Our last experience at Lime Inn was not very good.  The Fish Trap is good but pricey for what you get."

Stanflyfisher was generally negative, save for his likes (Joe’s and the Deli).  He really didn’t like the Lime Inn or Morgan’s Mango, but liked the Tamarind Inn enough to go twice.

RGC1600 defended the restaurants, saying he has his own database of 28 restaurants. "My experience, and that of many others, is that there are lots of fine dining experiences at most budget levels on St. John," he wrote. "Morgan’s Mango and Lime Inn are consistently praised — if you had a bad experience, I’m sorry, but they are by no means ‘horrible.’ They serve excellent food and have many devoted fans."

ACB says he, too, has had a few bad meals on island and makes his decisions about where to eat based on price and value.  "This is why I am boycotting higher end white table restaurants.  They have not consistently delivered a product worthy of the price."

Celobeach wrote that she had a great time at LaTapa. "The
waitress knew the menu and wine list. She answered our questions and
gave recommendations for each course. Her manner was informed, not
snotty. We feasted that evening and it was worth every penny."

(Chefs on island know they have challenges maintaining consistent quality.  Listen to Paradiso’s Paul Trujillo talk about how hard he works to develop a menu despite changing and unreliable food supplies and availability.)

Panini Beach: Countdown to closing

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It’s 10 years and out for Janet Kleiner and Joe Guarise.  They’ll be closing their Cruz Bay beach-side trattoria at Wharfside on August 17th. Their moderately-priced restaurant’s menu included inventive Bellinis to start, excellent pasta and hot Italian sausages (my favorite),  linguine and clams for an entree, and a Cioccolato Panino for Dolci.

They are not leaving happily.  They arrived in late 1997 from Chicago, full of energy and optimism.  But developments like Sirenusa, Grande Bay, multi-million dollar villas, rising rents, a demanding
landlord and other changes have been troubling. "It’s still beautiful, but I’d rather leave and remember it as it was," Kleiner explained.

She talked about her experience in a forthright, even controversial, interview.  To listen, click the "Play" button below.

You can also download or hear the conversation by clicking here.

Read morePanini Beach: Countdown to closing

Restaurant business declining?

The Inquiring Iguana spends too much time surfing various forums where
island visitors are eager to get the inside story on what’s happening on island. Here’s some of what he’s heard recently.

21st Century island visitors are not eating in the island’s restaurants as much as tourists use to.  Comments on TripAdvisor.com suggest there’s some truth to this.  There are lots of questions and answers about bringing your own food.

Read moreRestaurant business declining?

Tequila tasting a new highlight of Katilady

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Vodka and wine tasting are now part of Kate Steinborn’s Katilady Catering.  The 10-year-old firm has staged events like these in island villas. A beer tasting is planned, too.

"We’re trying to appeal to the local market," said Edika Franco one of Katilady’s chefs.  "There’s not much to do here for locals, so we just want to have some fun" with things like cooking demonstrations and wine pairings.

In the second part of an interview with Steinborn, she also explains how a Virgin Islands business owner like herself has to be flexible and always adapting.  "If you want to do one thing, and only one thing, this is not the place for you," she explained.

To listen, click the "Play" button below.

You can also download or hear the conversation by clicking here.

How Katilady puts the ‘Welcome’ in baskets

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Everybody’s gotta eat, even if they are on vacation. 

That simple fact, and the fact that many of St. John’s visitors have money or want to splurge, may be behind the fact that there are at least four catering businesses on island.  Each will provision your villa before you arrive, have a private chef prepare a great meal for you in the villa, or maybe even prepare a beach picnic
for you.

Perhaps the oldest catering business is Katilady, owned by Katherine Steinborn.  She started 10 years ago, by herself in a 12-foot-by-12-foot efficiency apartment, putting together "Welcome Baskets" of snacks and drinks and delivering them to rental homes.  Now, Katilady has 18 full- and part-time employees.

Read moreHow Katilady puts the ‘Welcome’ in baskets

More cheap stuff on island, courtesy of the St. John Sun Times

Grill Your Own at Maho  Monday and Tuesday Nights.  Steak, sausage, Yellow fin tuna, and shrimp are among the choices for you to prepare with some tips, and island spices, from chef Mon Phon.  $6-$12.  Estate Concordia, phone 340-693-5855.

Wednesday is Shrimp Night at the Lime Inn.  A favorite of locals for years and years.  340-776-6425.

Read moreMore cheap stuff on island, courtesy of the St. John Sun Times

Government wants to muffle noise from bars

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Anyone who’s ever walked around Cruz Bay when Fred’s is rocking with reggae will get a kick out of this story. 

The Governor has signed the "Noise Pollution Act" to require that bars and taverns in the Territory be soundproofed.  As Mayor Daley once said when asked about something he thought was preposterous, "Just say, I smiled."

Gov. John deJongh issued a statement admitting he has second thoughts about signing Bill 27-0026, enacted "to prohibit unreasonable, excessive and annoying noise levels."

"The legislation leaves too much discretion in the hands of the agents charged with investigating and enforcing alleged violations of the law," he said.  In other words, you can only hope the investigating police officer is having a good night and doesn’t think tourists are having too good a time. 

The Act’s focus on noise "may have a harmful impact on some of our cultural traditions" deJongh added.  Also, soundproofing open-air spots like the Beach Bar or Island Blues could, the Governor indicated,  "adversely affect our tourism product."

And what do you do about Woody’s?  Put all those people inside?  Just say, I would smile.

Chef Ted starts Tradewinds column

The founder and former chef at Tage, one of the island’s best-reviewed restaurants, has launched a newspaper column in the St. John Tradewinds.  In his first effort, Ted Robinson said the bimonthly "A Kitchen Conversation" is intended "to get the point across that food and cooking should not be about a technical list of ingredients." Cooking should be simple and enjoyable.  "It should be about the act of doing it, adding your own personal touch…"

The first column included a recipe for "Dry Rub Grilled Mahi Mahi with fresh fruit, salsa, arugala, and crispy bread.  It calls for 8 seeds and spices and five fruits (simple?).  The list also includes a bag of Josephine’s Greens, a loaf of bread from Baked in the Sun, salt, pepper, and oilier oil.  Read his columns (1) and (2).

Meanwhile, Ted’s doing some promotion for his private chef business. Eric, on the Virgin-Islands-On-Line forum, post a link to Ted’s Supper Club.

St. John for less $

The St. John Sun Times has begun a new feature, "St. John on a Budget."  Given that the cost of living, and vacationing, is high, these tips are worth remembering.  The feature is certainly a reason to pick up a copy of the paper, too.   It published every other Wednesday.

Recent tips:

  • Shrimp Night at the Lime Inn:  Wednesdays, $21.95 all the peel-and-eat shrimp you want.  Get there early.
  • Appetizer happy hour at Paradiso:  Chef Paul Trujillo’s tasty starters are half price, from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
  • Movie Night at the Tap Room:  This has just started, and let’s see how long the MPAA lets it go on.  The show goes on Wednesday nights at 7 p.m.
  • Free golf:  The island’s miniature golf course, Compass Rose, offers freebies for kids Monday nights and  for groups of lady duffers Wednesday.  Locals also play free before 7 p.m. on Saturday.
  • Senorita Pizza: MiIller Draft and Lights, $1 all day.